Watchtower at the End of the World

Note: This is part of a small collection of stories set in a fantasy world that has fallen to a great evil.

The village is smaller than it once was. Less than a dozen families and several unattached people. We lost so many when the enemy reached us. Many tried to fight but there were too many. Only the walls kept those of us who could get inside safe. The walls around the sanctuary were blessed by the cleric and repelled the evil creatures that swarmed through the village. We all live within the walls now in tents and makeshift shacks on the sanctuary’s grounds.

For four days they marched passed us and then they were gone. Most of them. Smaller packs of demons or the risen dead still roam but the army has not returned.

The watchtower was built out of the wreckage of our homes. The first watchtower attracted wyverns. We think the cleric’s blessing of the sanctuary did not reach high enough to repel them and he would not climb to the top to bless it. The second tower we built shorter and have not been bothered by the wyverns. It’s a simple structure, a ladder leading to a flat platform covered by a tarp.

A fairy alighted on my shoulder singing a happy wordless tune. I smiled. Since they came to stay with us, within the walls, they had mostly been silent. We used to hear them, many more than were left, singing often in the woods but the enemy burnt and slashed and trampled it flat. They were hesitant at first to be near people. The children left food for them on the walls and slowly they made themselves known to us.

“Goodday-goodday-Shanna,” the fairy sang into my ear.

“Good day to you,” I replied, “You sound happy.”

“Yesyes-Desmona-gave-birth-to-twins,” she sang excitedly, bouncing on my shoulder.

“That is a good reason to be happy.” The first fairies born among people. Maybe the last.

My eye caught movement in the distance. A small group, four, no five, slow jerky movements; the dead brought back to life. I picked up the mallet and prepared to hit the gong. We had a simple system for the watchtower to alert those on the ground. One gong hit and a pause was danger in sight. Two gong hits and a pause was danger approaching. Three gong hits and a pause was danger at the walls. Continuous gong hits was danger inside the walls. I watched the dead walk for a moment eyeing their direction.

GONG pause GONG pause GONG pause GONG

I stopped as a few people stepped out of their tents and shanties with weapons. Two more fairies flew up to the tower. I pointed out the dead to them and they flew down to pass the info along to those below. A woman with a bow climbed unto the walkway we had built behind the walls. A streak of red flew around her head and I saw her zero in on the dead. They had continued on their course coming closer but not directly at us.

The woman pulled a glowing blessed arrow from her quiver. Imbued with holy power by our cleric, blessed arrows were powerful weapons against demons and dead. We had very few left because the cleric lacked some essential oils to confer a proper blessing on any more. I turned to have the nearest fairy tell her to hold back but stopped myself. How much time did we really have left? Was it worth it to ask the people left to put their family and friends to rest with their own hands?

“Tell her to let fly,” I said to the fairy and it streaked away in green and purple.

A red streak returned to me. “Evelyn-is-out-there,” the fairy sang sorrowfully. No, I thought, it couldn’t be, could it? We had laid her to rest properly. I strained my eyes to pick out the features of the dead but could see nothing distinguishing.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yesyesyesyes,” the fairy replied.

The archer nocked the blessed arrow and drew it back. It’s glow brightened spreading to the bow and archer. She released the arrow. A beam of pure white light connected archer to target. The light contracted down to the arrow firmly lodged in a dead’s chest. It turned to look up at the watchtower. Did it- she know I was up here? The arrow exploded into a sphere of white, cleansing, blessed fire consuming the five dead. The people gathered on the wall let out a cheer.

“All clear,” I said to a fairy, who shot off to spread the word, leaving me alone in the tower. “Rest now in final peace Mother,” I said to the smoking ring of dirt.